Boohoo sales up 40% but shares fall as Leveson lingers

Manchester-based online fashion giant Boohoo Group plc — under scrutiny for its corporate governance and working conditions in factories that supply the firm — said on Thursday its revenue growth for the financial year to February 28, 2021, is expected to be 36% to 38%, ahead of its previous guidance of 28% to 32%.

In a trading statement for the four months ended December 31, 2020, Boohoo reported revenue growth of 40% to £660.8 million for the period with growth across all brands and geographies.

However, Boohoo’s shares fell 5% after their recent recovery as retired judge Brian Leveson delivered his first report into the group’s supply chain and its business practices which said the process had a “long way to go.”

Analysts expressed caution given the scale of the social and governance challenges facing the group and the possibility of follow-up investigations.

Boohoo said: “Following the publication of the independent review of boohoo’s UK supply chain on 25 September 2020, the group set out its Agenda for Change programme, which focused on a number of key areas: corporate governance; redefining our purchasing practices; raising standards across our supply chain; supporting Leicester’s workers and workers’ rights; support for suppliers; and demonstrating best practice in action.

“On 26 November 2020, the group announced the appointment of Sir Brian Leveson PC to provide independent oversight of the Agenda for Change programme, and committed to publishing progress reports.

“In line with the group’s ongoing commitment to transparency, Sir Brian Leveson’s first report has today been published on the group’s website.

“The report acknowledges the pace with which Boohoo is making towards effecting change, while noting that recommendations remain work in progress.

“The report can be viewed in full on our PLC website …

“The group and Sir Brian Leveson will continue to provide stakeholders with further updates on its Agenda for Change programme throughout 2021, including publication of its first Annual Sustainability Report alongside our Annual Report and Accounts.”

Liberum analysts wrote in a note to investors: “The share price resurgence suggests that investors have put the supply chain issues behind them, and growth suggests no impact from any consumer activism.

“While this suggests a ‘buy’, we remain on the side of caution given the scale of the ESG (environmental, social and governance) challenges facing the group, the possibility of follow-up investigations and potential financial impact from an ethical supply chain.”

In a UK operations update, Boohoo said: “The group is close to finalising an extension of UK warehousing capacity (UK3) with a new site to open in April 2021 that will support the creation of up to 1,000 jobs in the first 12 months of operation.

“The site is intended to be utilised by the Nasty Gal, Karen Millen, Coast, Oasis and Warehouse brands, with a transition expected over the course of the first half of the next financial year.

“The addition of UK3 will free up capacity within our existing network as we develop these facilities to support future expansion plans.”